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Garment factory inspections reveal numerous problems in Bangladesh

By KAY JOHNSON and JULHAS ALAM, Associated Press Published: March 11, 2014

Inspections of Bangladesh garment factories under a new safety initiative have found cracked support beams, extra floors apparently built without permits and exposed electrical cables chewed by rats.

Overly heavy structures on roofs, substandard building materials and even an unauthorized helicopter pad were also among the problems revealed in the first round of inspection reports released Tuesday.

The inspections are being funded by a group of mostly European fashion brands in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza factory collapse that killed more than 1,100 people in April last year. They plan to check some 1,500 garment factories in Bangladesh this year. The country’s garment industry, its biggest export earner, has more than 5,000 factories overall.

The collapse of Rana Plaza in Dhaka, the capital, highlighted grim conditions in Bangladesh’s garment industry, which has become a major supplier to global fashion brands and retailers that are attracted by wages that are lower than in China and other developing countries.

The initial round of inspections for structural, electrical and fire safety covered just 10 factories which were chosen first because they had multiple floors and were deemed a higher risk. The Bangladesh Accord Foundation that is overseeing the safety pact said 250 more inspections will be completed by the end of March and the rest by the end of August.

Among the safety concerns found were “multiple hairline cracks” in floor slabs of a 10-story factory belonging to Rio Fashion Wear Ltd in Dhaka. The same factory’s support columns were also found to have a weaker kind of concrete — brick aggregate — than the stronger stone aggregate type that was listed in the building’s designs.

Another factory, Viyellatex Ltd., lacked permit documentation for two of its eight stories including a helipad. It also had cracks in support beams with moisture indicating that the cracking was more than superficial.

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